An outspoken University of South Florida professor was replaced Monday as the faculty's representative on the USF board of trustees.
In a 9-8 vote, USF's newly created faculty advisory council chose Elizabeth Larkin, a professor in the College of Education at USF Sarasota-Manatee, to replace Laurence Branch as the faculty trustee.
Branch was supported by professors from USF's largest campus in Tampa, where he is a distinguished university professor in the College of Public Health. Larkin was supported by the faculty from USF St. Petersburg, USF Sarasota-Manatee and USF Polytechnic in Lakeland.
Branch had been the faculty representative on the board of trustees by virtue of his position as president of the faculty senate at USF Tampa, which has 85 percent of the system's students and 89 percent of its faculty members.
But USF is evolving from a university with one main campus and three small branches into a system of separately accredited institutions that share a name and some administrative functions, but operate with increased autonomy. The faculty advisory council consists of faculty senate representatives from all four USF institutions.
In the past, Branch has criticized moves made by USF president Judy Genshaft's administration, shared with reporters a voice mail message from Genshaft to him about the firing of football coach Jim Leavitt and is pursuing a grievance over whether USF kept a promise to support his research. "The administration would like nothing more than for me to go away" so it could deal with a faculty representative who had much to learn, Branch said before the vote.
But he said he would continue to demand accountability when, for example, USF Health creates programs without consulting any faculty senate input, something he said accrediting agencies expect to see.
"That's just not right," Branch said. "It's not consistent with a shared governance approach. I've been very vocal about it."
After the vote, Branch said, "President Genshaft got exactly what she wanted."
Genshaft is traveling in Brazil, but USF spokeswoman Lara Wade said the president was not involved in the conversations of the faculty advisory council.
Larkin and other professors from outside Tampa said the vote wasn't about Branch, whom several praised. Instead, they said it was about making sure the system is fair and considers the concerns of all of its campuses. Too often, Larkin said, the main campus has dismissed their concerns.
"We haven't really been heard before," she said.